Latest reviews by Amanda Wagner

(2018)
"Illinois half marathon 2018 review"
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Despite having a cold, I am happy to say I crossed the line in 1:34:06, good for a 6 minute PR. The highlight of the race weekend, though, was my husband's massive 26 minute PR in the marathon. He finished in 2:42:57 good enough for a 2019 BQ!

Expo/Packet pick up: My husband and I encountered wicked Friday late afternoon Chicago traffic and an hour into the trip knew we were not going to make the expo in time. Thank goodness for our friend Mikey (who ran the 10k race) and saved the day! He picked up the packets for us and then delivered them to us at dinner. 

Waiting for the start: It was a little chilly so I wore a "throw" shirt, but everything was easily marked with signs. There seemed to be enough porta potties and the lines moved quickly. I didn't use one, but that's always a pro in my book!

Race course: The course was flat and fast! Perfect course for a PR. It went though campus, nearby neighborhoods, and a park. There were tons of spectators throughout the course, which was a nice morale boost. There were ample aid stations. I only took in water, because I don't fuel for half marathons, but they also had Gatorade and GUs. I also remember one aid station that offered sliced oranges. I'm not sure how to eat while running (hence one of the many reasons I'm not ready for an ultra. lol), but it was a nice gesture.The energy toward the finish was unreal! The last mile of the race you made your way toward to finish in the stadium and it was so cool! I was in awe of how beautiful the campus was and excited to be close to the finish. :P I can imagine that people who attend/attended University of Illinois for college felt emotional at the finish! I know if I ever return to my alma mater to run the race that finishes on our track that I will get emotional.  The stadium finish was hands down my favorite part of the race! :)

Post race/after party: At the finish, in the stadium, I was wrapped in a heat sheet, offered water, offered a sports drink, and offered a stretch from the Athletico station. There were also ample opportunities for photos, which I took as I waited anxiously for my husband to finish the marathon. I took some photos with friends and alone while I waited. I also got stretched out at the Athletico station which felt awesome on my tight hips and IT band.Once my husband finished in an astonishing 2:42:57, we took a few more photos with and without the PR bell. The PR bell had received a lot of love at this point and was broken...we took photos anyway!:P After the photos we made our way to the post race party to check out the beers and snacks. My husband got a beer and there were a lot of snack options! None of us were hungry at that point yet or we would have eaten something.

Swag: Every finisher got a sweet medal (regardless of race) and free finisher photos. For running the half I got a dri-fit long sleeve shirt and my husband got a quarter zip for running the full. Our hotel was super cute and made us little good luck goodie bags as well, but I forgot to snap a picture :(

Overall, it was fun and well organized race! It's flat and fast which is perfect for obtaining the PR or a BQ. I definitely want to return! 

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(2018)
"F^3 Lake 5k"
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I become injured in early November and was unable to run the Madison half that month, so I knew a Jan half wasn't realistic. My husband signed up for this half and I felt left out, so I signed up for the 5k in the hopes that I would somehow recover and be able to run at least a few weeks before the race. Thankfully, I overcame my injury in a month and half through lots of rest, time in the weight room, yoga, and a little cross training. I started running again a week before Christmas and knew that my goal for this 5k would be to finish and nothing more.

Now I will say that despite my lack of fitness going in, I am so happy I signed up for this race! The weather was unseasonably warm for January (40s) and it was so much fun.

Packet pick up: There were multiple weekends and locations (city and suburbs) to pick up packets and even an option to pick it up race morning for $15.

Parking: Only con about this race. Parking was a slow process and expensive because they made you pay before entering the garage. Most places have you grab a ticket and pay on the way out. I would have preferred that option because my husband and I kept our wallets in the bag in our car truck. So when we got to the front of the parking line I had to jump out of the car and scramble to open the trunk and find one of wallets to pay... I feel like myself (and everyone else) who had to do this held up the parking line significantly.

Waiting for the start: My favorite part of the race (besides running it) was the ability to stay inside the warm United Center until the start of the race and pee in a real toilet instead of a porta potty :P I also thought the gear check was easy to find and very well organized.If it had been actually cold on race day, I would have still been comfortable because the start line was right outside the door. I still took advantage of the warmth and since I did not warm up, I reported to the start line until 5 min before the race. Had I had lofter goals for this race (i.e. getting a PR rather than just finishing), I would have warmed up, done drills, etc.

Race course: The 5k (and the half) was a flat and fast out and back course. There was one water station on the 5k course than I didn't use or need, but it was nice that they had one. My husband ran the half and did not take in much water, but was pleased with how many stops were on the course too. There were quite a few people cheering and taking pictures so that was cool too. I just started running again a month before the race (due to my injury) and recently got a new job as a chemistry teacher, so my training was subpar going into this race. In the two weeks before the race I only ran twice and had not done much speed work since before my injury, so I decided that smartest option was to treat the race as a tempo run. For this reason, I was definitely surprised with the end result. Finally, everyone I saw on and off the course was nice, but this makes sense, because I feel like only the most dedicated runners are willing to run or volunteer in a Chicago winter race!

Post race/swag: Everyone who ran the 5k or half got a cool medal and there were some sweet age group and overall prizes. The top three overall 5k runners for each gender got a plaque and the top three half marathon runners got prize money, which helped make the half marathon competitive. So I got a pretty sweet plaque from the 5k! There were also age group prizes for the half marathon, which my husband narrowly missed (4th in his age group with a PR of 1:15). We also all got a cool lightweight hooded top, which is super comfy and soft and I've already worn twice since last weekend :P

Afterparty: After the awards, we decided to mosey on over to the post-race party and get our free beers from Kroll's. Our entire table ordered Two Brother's Pinball pale ales. A few of us got food as well: my husband got a veggie burger, I got sweet potato fries, and our friend got a Chicken Cesar Salad which he enjoyed. Kroll's had a fun atmosphere, the food was decent, but I feel like they were a bit understaffed. They could have used a few more severs to handle the high volume of hungry and thirsty runners.

Overall, the F^3 Lake Half Marathon and 5k was well organized, fun, and definitely a race I'd do again. :) Although, next time I'd do the half marathon rather than the 5k.

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(2017)
"Pumpkin Spice 5k"
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This was a fun, low key race at Jackson Park to benefit Whitney Young High School. The course was a flat and fast out and back on the lakeshore path with the start and finish at Jackson Park. There was a water station at the halfway point for everyone who needed it. Everyone at the race was nice and my husband and I had a great time! Another cool part of the race was first place won a free pair of shoes-something us runners can never get enough of!

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(2017)
"Ravenswood run 5k"
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Course is flat and fast-great place to try to get a 5k PR! The course goes around the beautiful Ravenswood neighborhood and everything is well marked and easy tonfollow. All the race volunteers/workers are very nice and helpful. I ran without training in 2017...but plan on running and training for this race in 2018.

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(2014)
"Rock ‘N Sole Half"
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This was my first half marathon in 2014 and it was a good experience minus my injury. The racing conditions were perfect-breezy and not too hot despite it being a June race. Everyone was super nice and worked diligently to make it a fun, safe, and efficient race. The directions are clearly marked and many aid stations. Definitely a good idea for your first half marathon!

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